Informatics Newsletter February 2019

Issue 22 of our School newsletter for students and staff.


Informatics Jamboree

Did you enjoy the Informatics Jamboree last year? Would you like to get involved in organising this year’s event? We are looking for volunteers to join the organising committee.

If you’d like to get involved and help us make the Jamboree 2019 an even bigger success, please email infcomms.

Contact Infcomms

General Meeting

If you haven’t attended the meeting, please check the slides. A few points highlighted by Jane:

  • We have some administrative vacancies to fill, specifically Director of Internationalisation and Deputy Equality and Diversity Coordinator.  If any member of academic staff is potentially interested in either of these roles please let me know.
  • At the town hall meetings in January there were requests for an anonymous suggestions box.  This has now been installed on the fifth floor near the glass lifts.  This is a trial.  As I mentioned in the General meeting, if there are no suggestions, or if there are inappropriate suggestions, this will be discontinued.
  • Starting on 4th March we will have two subsidised yoga sessions every Monday in G.03.  Details below (under Mental Health and Well-being).


  • The School now has a Staff Development Fund. See below for how to access it.

Staff Development Fund

Stills from the news Informatics videos
Stills from the new Informatics videos

Informatics Publicity Videos

Publicity videos are now available on You Tube – go and have a look! We will be working on student experience videos next.

School of Informatics: Introduction & Research videos

Research successes

Mike O'Boyle gave a keynote talk at CGO 2019

Mike O’Boyle has been invited to give the CGO (International Symposium on Code Generation and Optimization) keynote at the upcoming HPCA/CGO/PPoPP/CC conference in Feb 2019.

'Mike O'Boyle gave a keynote talk at CGO 2019'

ICSA researchers win multiple paper awards at CGO/HPCA 2019

ICSA researchers won three paper awards at two co-located conferences in Washington DC: the International Symposium on High-Performance Computer Architecture (HPCA) and the International Symposium on Code Generation and Optimization (CGO).

'ICSA researchers win multiple paper awards at CGO/HPCA 2019'

Support for AI boosts postgraduate researchers

Two Centres for Doctoral Training offering postgraduate programmes in Natural Language Processing and in Biomedical Artificial Intelligence have received funding. They form part of a drive to train the next generation of experts in AI (Artificial Intelligence) and build on the UK’s reputation for emerging technologies.

'Support for AI boosts postgraduate researchers'

Smart home systems must switch to better security, study finds

Paul Patras and colleagues studied the security of Belkin WeMo, which is among the most popular smart home ecosystems. Their research suggests that the security of smart domestic appliances that can be managed remotely must be improved to better protect users’ privacy.

'Smart home systems must switch to better security, study finds'

Ohad Kammar secures Royal Society funding

Ohad Kammar secured £610,793 from the Royal Society for his Effectful theories of programming languages project. In this project, Kammar will study features for statistical modelling and for manipulating external components, such as the memory or screen; manipulating data, enabling a program to manipulate data of different shapes uniformly; and concurrent interaction of programs. Existing languages restrict the combination of these features, limiting one when another is present. By studying their mathematical structure, the goal is to enable the programming languages of tomorrow to use all of these features in harmony.

Rico Sennrich and Barry Haddow obtain funding from the European Commission

Rico Sennrich and Barry Haddow have obtained funding from the European Commission as part of the project ELITR, a 3-year £3m project led by Charles University Prague and in collaboration with the University of Edinburgh, the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Pervoice and alfatraining. Machine translation has seen tremendous improvements in recent years, but still faces many challenges, such as the quality gap between written and spoken language translation, and the difficulty of scaling the technology to many language pairs. ELITR aims to advance the quality, robustness and efficiency of translation technology for spoken language translation, in multilingual environments with many possible source and target languages, and in settings where we want a coherent translation of larger documents and dialogues. The project will also design and implement automatic minuting, the creation of structured summaries from automatic transcripts of a discussion. The technologies will be tested by the Supreme Audit Office of the Czech Republic and alfaview®, a German online conferencing system.

Update on the European Language Grid project

Ulrich Germann is the University of Edinburgh lead in a multi-partner consortium that will work on the European Language Grid project. Edinburgh received a £223,847 for this from Horizon 2020. The European Language Grid (ELG) is a EU Horizon 2020 Innovation Action that aims to develop a unified point of access to language resources and technologies in all official EU languages and many other languages spoken in Europe. The ELG will offer catalogues of language resources such as corpora, dictionaries and pre-trained models as well as language technologies such as Automatic Speech Recognition, Machine Translation, Named Entity Recognition, Sentiment Analysis, etc. In addition, the ELG will also offer cloud services that provide automated LT services (such as speech recognition and machine translation) out of the box. Like the power grid allows users of electricity to access it everywhere the grid reaches without worrying where exactly the electricity comes from and how it gets to the outlet, the ELG will allow users of language technologies to "plug themselves in" and use these technologies without having to worry about the underlying technological and physical infrastructure. The ELG project consortium comprises nine project partners and is coordinated by the German Research Centre for Artificial Intelligence (DFKI). The University of Edinburgh's School of Informatics will be contributing its flagship speech recognition and machine translation technologies.

Steve Renals secures funding from Samsung

Steve Renals has secured £137,365 from Samsung for his project Adapting end-to-end speech recognition systems. A major problem in speech recognition is adapting systems to work accurately in different domains of use - for example, different environments in the home or the office, where speech is recorded using tabletop microphones in different acoustic conditions.  Usually a system does not have training data for a new acoustic environment in advance, and must learn to adapt to an environment while being used in that environment. The aim of the project is to develop efficient, unsupervised adaptation algorithms for end-to-end speech recognition systems - systems which directly map an input acoustic sequence of to an output textual sequence, without requiring intermediate components.  End-to-end speech recognition systems have been an area of intense research over the past 2-3 years, and display great potential, but effective adaption algorithms have not yet been developed for such systems.

Chris Heunen gets EPSRC Fellowship extended

Chris Heunen was awarded an extension to his EPSRC Fellowship worth £661,974.30 to work on Combining Viewpoints in Quantum Theory. Quantum hardware consists of small quantum-mechanical systems that are under our control. We can use it solve certain problems much more efficiently than with any classical hardware. It can even let us communicate in ways that were impossible with classical hardware. One of the main difficulties with this revolution is the steep learning curve to high-level programming of quantum software. Building on the success of the Fellowship, the extension will turn fundamental results into more practical benefits. First, Chris will optimise quantum computations to make them as cheap as possible, while at the same time making them as intuitive as possible to program in the first place. This will be implemented in three industry standard quantum programming platforms. Second, he will extend the framework to allow to specify distributed quantum communication protocols in a realistic way. This will advance the theoretical understanding of nature. At the same time, it will have practical benefits by making the design of Disclosuquantum protocols and algorithms more accessible to non-specialist programmers.

A word from Research Services

Requirements and support for open access

Research colleagues are reminded and invited to forward notification of acceptance emails to the RDM team. Alternatively, colleagues may complete the publication submission form or create a PURE record themselves (instructions available on InfWeb > Open Access in Informatics).

Contact the RDM team

Informatics publication submission form (secured)

Open access in Informatics

Working with the RDM team ensures Open Access compliance as required by both School publication policy and the REF OA policy.

Informatics publication policy

Summary of REF open access policy

There is a quarterly OA check conducted by the RDM team. This moved online in February, and will be further developed to streamline the process for research colleagues.

Questions and comments on PURE, open access and REF are all welcome.

Contact Victoria via publications email

Contact Victoria directly

Where to find Victoria:

  • Phone 502702
  • Office IF-3.26

Student news

Student YouTube star makes DIY robotics look as easy as Pi

Our first-year university student has become an online sensation, offering expert advice on DIY robotics and computer programming.

'Student YouTube star makes DIY robotics look as easy as Pi'

We Need to Talk about AI – EdIntelligence are getting ready for the second event in the series

Second in a series of public discussion will cover ethical aspects of automation and the future of work. The event is to take place on 12th March.

We Need to Talk About AI - Future of Work

NSS opened on 4th February

National Student Survey opens to UoE 4th year students on 4th February.  Last year the School has recorded the biggest rise is student satisfaction among all the schools in CSE. This year we are hoping to raise the response rate.


Brexit Planning

Amid the continued uncertainty surrounding the UK’s withdrawal from the EU, the University is providing advice for students and staff on the impacts of Brexit. Information for students and staff is available on the University website.

Brexit Planning page

Disclosure of intimate relationships

University has launched a new policy to give clarity around the disclosure of staff/student and staff/staff relationships to minimise these risks and help protect the wellbeing of all students and staff. Director of Professional Services is now the School’s Disclosure Manager.

Policy on Disclosure of Intimate relationships

Outreach and Public Engagement

Check out the College of Science and Engineering PE group blog for more info.

Public Engagement at the CSE

Call for contributions - science-activity for Beavers group, Liberton

A trainee young leader is looking to organise a science-based activity for a local Beavers group over the next few months. Ideally, the activity would take place on 29th May (from 6pm) and be focused on electronics in some way, but there is flexibility over the date and activity focus!

If you are potentially able to support, please contact Noel Smyth and your contact will be passed on.

Contact Noel Smyth

Nuffield Research Placement Scheme, summer 2019

The Nuffield Research Placement Scheme provides post-16 school or college students an opportunity to carry out research or development projects in any of the STEM-related disciplines (inc. data science, all engineering types, geography, etc) in universities, industry, conservation or research organisations - projects need not be lab-based.

The Scheme is now fully widening access/participation, in that only applications from pupils/students attending public schools/college who are either eligible for a bursary or first in family to attend Higher Education (not including siblings), in doing so targeting social mobility and social disadvantage. Placements last 4-6 weeks full-time in the summer vacation period.

The placements help students to increase confidence and improve key skills, and by working with professional scientists and engineers in a real-life environment, the students gain an invaluable insight into a wide variety of careers.

More information about the scheme

For new project providers – please contact Jennifer Smith who will register you on the system. Final project details will be required by mid-March 2019, but it's advised to send a note of interest earlier.

Contact Jennifer Smith

British Science Association Honorary Fellows nominations, deadline: 1st Mar

Honorary Fellows are people who have made an outstanding contribution to the vision and mission of the British Science Association; it is the highest honour that the association confers. Stated vision/mission contributions could be through working with the BSA's programmes or separately from them. Self-nominations are not permitted.

Further details and the nomination form

Call for contributions - further details about Soapbox Science, Edinburgh, 8th June

Organisers are looking for women researchers from PhD students to professors, from entry-level researchers to entrepreneurs, to inspire the public with their work and enthuse others about their area of science, technology, engineering or maths (STEM).

Speakers will have the opportunity to engage with a wide cross-section of the public including those who haven’t had the chance or means to meet a scientist or the opportunity to find out what science happens in their area. Being a speaker also boosts your profile through participation in an international movement, an invitation to write a blog along with potential local and national media coverage. This year there are over 40 events in 14 countries.

Soapbox Science uses an inclusive definition of “woman” and “female” and applications from trans women, genderqueer women, and non-binary people who for the purpose of this event feel comfortable being female-identified are welcome.

The Edinburgh event will be held on the 8th June and the call closes on 1st March.

More details about the event

If you're looking for some preparation advice, then this post might be helpful.

'Thinking of applying to be a Soapbox Science speaker? Do it.'

Call for involvement - Great Science Share for Schools, 18th June

The Great Science Share for Schools is a national campaign to inspire young people into science and engineering by sharing their scientific questions. By becoming involved, you'll be encouraging young people to engage others; improve teacher confidence; support the profile of science in schools.

Involvement in the Great Science Share could be as simple as aligning an existing activity to the aims of the campaign through to working with a whole school cluster. It's a flexible enterprise!

Resources are available on the website and bursaries (application deadline 6th March) are available to expand the campaign further into socially disadvantaged communities.

Great Science Hare

If you wish to run a satellite event, please register.

Register to run an event

Furthermore, if you need any advice or would simply like to find out more, then contacting Ellen Logan is your best option!

Contact Ellen Logan


Unconscious Bias: the neuroscience

Friday April 26 12:30 - 13:30 (bring your sandwiches) Bayes G.03


This lunchtime event will present some recent results on how we respond when facing a new situation and need to make a decision quickly. This is a lunchtime event, so bring your sandwiches.

This session is an introduction to the underpinning principles of unconscious (implicit bias) which examines the way our brains categorise and assign value to people based on characteristic such as Age, Bodyweight, Disability, Ethnicity, Gender and even facial hair.  It explores the way these assignments impact processes such as listening, recruiting, performance management and work allocation.  It ends with some 'top tips' on bias mitigation. It responds to the recent review by Atewolgun, Cornish and Tresh (2018) which suggested that; understanding the underpinning principles of unconscious bias coupled with bias testing (which will be offered to all delegates post-session), and having cognitive strategies for action may reduce unconscious bias.

Unconscious Bias: strategies for reducing bias

Friday April 26 14:00-16:30 Bayes G.03


This workshop will explore the issues and impact of unconsicous bias in more detail. A key focus will be on strategies for avoiding poor decision making based on the biases that we all have.

This course is valuable for anyone who has to make decisions about people: job interviewing, PhD examining, PhD selection, promotions, task allocation, etc.

This workshop is designed to take delegates from a basic understanding of unconscious bias to having the capacity to apply bias mitigation techniques in recruiting.  It assumes no prior knowledge although delegates may already typically have completed an in-house e-learning module or similar training.

Mental health and well being

Informatics Staff and Students

If you feel that you are being mistreated at the University because of a factor such as gender, race, age, nationality, religion, sexuality, etc, you are welcome to confidentially contact the InfHR team in person (Informatics Forum room 5.39) or via email at any time.

Contact InfHR

You can also speak to Aileen McKie in the College Office.

The University has a number of HR policies, including the Dignity and Respect policy, and staff are encouraged to review these.

A to Z of HR policies

You can find information about mental health and wellbeing on the Informatics external website.

Mental health and wellbeing

Yoga in Informatics

From 4th March, we will have two yoga sessions every Monday led by yoga teacher, Kerry Ross, in G03.  The sessions will run 12:15-1:00 and 5:15-6:00.  There will be spaces for 16 participants at each session and places will be allocated on a first-come-first-serve, but participants must sign up in advance not just turn up at the session.  Each participant must bring along their own yoga mat.

To sign up participants should speak to Julie (or Aleks) on reception on Monday morning, and pay the £2 charge.  Sign up will be closed at 12:00.



The Chaplaincy warmly invites you to two events:

'Extinction Rebellion' is an event looking at the environmental crisis and humanity's potential for extinction and asks what we can do to prevent it.  The panel will include Professor Simon Kelley, Head of the School of GeoSciences.

More about 'Extinction Rebellion'

'Hebridean Treasure' is a performance which expresses in poetry and dance how the people of the Western Isles celebrated the sacredness of the earth. It tells the story of the Clearances and how this painful experience of exile affected a people's soul.

More about 'Hebridean Treasure'

Hebridean Treasure website

Hebridean Treasure event on the Scottish Story Centre website

Informatics Open Artspace

When? Tuesdays, 6pm to 8pm

Where? At the tables in MF1

What? We will have materials for acrylic painting, lino cut and origami. If you have you own project to work on, you can bring it, too!

Everyone is welcome, just come by, hang out, make some art! 

Auld Alliance French Movie Club

Come watch French movies (with English subtitles) and socialise with like-minded folks - the Auld Alliance French Movie Club is back today at 6pm in MF2.

About the movie

This time, we will be watching 'Le premier jour du reste de ta vie' by Rémi Bezançon.

More information

For more information / to register attendance / to sign up to the mailing list, please check the club's page.

More about the Auld Alliance French Movie Club

Informatics Readers Club

Calling all Informatics bookworms! If you are interested in meeting up and chatting about books you have recently read and/or your favourite ones, please get in touch with Infcomms. We are looking to set up a discussion group, that wouldn’t be your usual book club with prescribed readings. We invite everyone, irrespective of what language you’re reading in!

Contact Infcomms

Guess who?

... has recorded 8 albums which are available on Spotify?

Keep going, you might become one of the most prolific artists of your generation!

Best of inf-general

Our PhD students wrote A Report on the Temperature of Office 5.34 – and the email with the report wins best of inf-general this month!


Inf-general is a mailing list used to carry informal discussions, postings, requests to and from staff within Informatics. Not for official purposes. Julian Bradfield is the guardian of inf-general who steps in to point out misuses and confirm when inf-general should most definitely be used. If you’re new to Informatics inf-general emails can be a great source of knowledge for you: ask and you will be informed, but do remember to share the information back with the mailing list users.


Keep in Touch

For all the latest news, keep an eye on our website and social media channels!

Informatics Communications team website



Edinburgh Informatics Alumni group on LinkedIn


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